Meta-adaptation in the auditory midbrain under cortical influence

Benjamin L. Robinson*, Nicol S. Harper, David McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Neural adaptation is central to sensation. Neurons in auditory midbrain, for example, rapidly adapt their firing rates to enhance coding precision of common sound intensities. However, it remains unknown whether this adaptation is fixed, or dynamic and dependent on experience. Here, using Guinea pigs as animal models, we report that adaptation accelerates when an environment is re-encountered - in response to a sound environment that repeatedly switches between quiet and loud, midbrain neurons accrue experience to find an efficient code more rapidly. This phenomenon, which we term meta-adaptation, suggests a top-down influence on the midbrain. To test this, we inactivate auditory cortex and find acceleration of adaptation with experience is attenuated, indicating a role for cortex - and its little-understood projections to the midbrain - in modulating meta-adaptation. Given the prevalence of adaptation across organisms and senses, meta-adaptation might be similarly common, with extensive implications for understanding how neurons encode the rapidly changing environments of the real world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13442
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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